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Attendance low at schools in session Monday

Most area school districts were closed Monday for winter break, though a few, including Philadelphia, scheduled a regular day of classes.

Most area school districts were closed Monday for winter break, though a few, including Philadelphia, scheduled a regular day of classes.

Not that it was a regular day at many schools.

"We watched Home Alone and Home Alone 2," said one teacher at Philadelphia Learning Academy North, a district alternative school in Feltonville.

And while some teachers planned full lessons, others did crafts, handed out work sheets, or gave pupils the opportunity to make up missed work.

Student attendance was low in many schools - especially high schools. District officials said Monday they could not provide a systemwide absence rate.

At Kensington Urban Education Academy, just 40 percent of students reported to school, but some of them walked in, scanned their ID cards, then walked right out a side door, one teacher said.

The day got stranger at midmorning, when a major water-main break at Frankford and Torresdale Avenues interfered with many schools' water supplies, forcing 44 to close early.

Around the city, staff reported spotty attendance.

A teacher at Grover Washington Middle School said that 22 of 33 students in her class reported to school.

A Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences teacher said 59 percent of students showed up before school was dismissed early because of the water emergency.

At Science Leadership Academy, student attendance was lower than usual, "but not abysmal," principal Chris Lehmann said.

Shawmont Elementary in Roxborough held Pajama Day, with games and hot chocolate.

At Academy at Palumbo, a magnet high school in South Philadelphia where 16 percent of students did not show up, it was "hard to do anything meaningful with so many absences," one teacher said.

Bache-Martin Elementary teacher Kristin Luebbert said 11 of her 29 homeroom students were absent. Still, a school day is a school day, she said - her seventh- and eighth-grade social studies classes finished watching the film Invictus, then answered questions about reconciliation and forgiveness as part of a mini-unit on Nelson Mandela.

At Parkway Center City, staff held an assembly celebrating students who made the honor roll and the school's cheerleaders, who won a recent competition. Then the school reviewed 2013 accomplishments and talked about 2014 goals.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision to hold school Monday was made long ago, when the 2013-14 calendar was set.

Districts need 180 instructional days to receive state aid, and the district planned 181. With a snow day already taken, there's no room for more days off.

At least two other area school districts scheduled classes on Monday. In Delaware County, the Ridley School District was in session. In Bucks, Neshaminy schools were open.